Release Date: Sep 22, 2009
Record label: Matador
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
There's a note on the back cover of Times New Viking's Rip It Off I'd never noticed until the other day. "Mixed & fucked by TNV and Matt Horseshit," it reads, that last bit referring to the Columbus trio's über-pessimistic pal and Psychedelic Horseshit frontdude (with a nod to Columbus noise linchpin Mike Rep Hummel). You pick up on the "fucked" pretty quick when you're listening to Times New Viking; of this newish lo-fi crop, they're the finest melodicists by some margin, melodies they're more than willing to step on in service of the skronk.
Times New Viking could have freaked out on Born Again Revisited. They got so much well-deserved praise from their previous album, Rip It Off, that it wouldn't have been surprising if they had either slicked up their no-fi sound in order to gain more widespread success or gone deeper into the noise rabbit hole and put out a polarizing, cruddy sounding album in an effort to stay underground. The trio did neither.
Guided By Voices, like Times New Viking, are from Ohio. This seems appropriate. They are both known in large part for being exemplars of a militantly lo-fi aesthetic, disregarding slick production values in favour of the sound of pops, hiss, and clicks. Then, as now, the sort of “fidelity above all” ethic ascribed to by many rock and pop bands is still alive and well, and ready to be opposed.
Fans of 2008’s divisive Rip It Off, Times New Viking’s breakthrough album for Matador, defended the band’s lo-lo-fi aesthetic by pointing to the melodies underneath the shrill, even lurid production. But many could not get past the deafening buzz-saw-like quality to the songs. Some probably wondered why, if the tracks were strong enough on their own, Times New Viking chose to lacquer everything in brittle noise.
Last May, I finally caught Times New Viking at Brighton’s Great Escape Festival… specifically, playing the same dingey bar in Hove they’d played the year before. Granted, it was only a mile or so from the city centre and the bigger shinier venues, but it was a long way to walk alone at night – along the sea-front with a gale blowing – to get to a place where the natives were a mixture of rockabilly, manual labourer, and Lenny from Of Mice and Men (I don’t mean each of them were a mixture, just this one pituitary giant, in braces, staring at me). It felt like being on TNV’s home turf.
Times New Viking, everyone's favourite typography hat-tipping lo-fi skronk horde, have returned. And their plan is to pillage old material. [rssbreak] You can understand why the fourth full-length, Born Again Revisited, is low on "Born Again" and high on "Revisited" - you do what works for you. Their 08 disc, Rip It Off, got lots of attention, and this one could have gone through an unpredictable pop cleansing.
Lo-fi’s no revolution. It’s been around since Bob Dylan and The Velvet Underground made their closet mixes and Basement Tapes in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Back then, it was all about authenticity—hearing musicians talk, laugh, make mistakes. When the genre boomed in the mid-‘90s it was a lot more self-conscious, mirroring similar (albeit decades-old) developments in visual art and classical music.
After a trio of energetic, lo-fi-or-die albums, Columbus, Ohio, trio Times New Viking has almost reached enlightenment. Back when the members were calling themselves shitgaze, 2005's Dig Yourself and Present the Paisley Reich two years later were the sound of musicians learning their instruments, blowing out speakers, and searching for melody. Eventually, one has to move beyond the 4-track, elbow up to the front.